This article analyzes Rituparno Ghosh's celebrated film Bariwali (The Lady of the House, 2000). The film marks the beginnings of Ghosh's treatment of gender and sexual politics. Ghosh's earlier films Unishe April (1994) and Dahan (1997) engaged with strong female characters, but Bariwali is the first of his films to narrate the various ways in which female agency is routed through male exploitation and patriarchy. Through close readings of the characters and the visual tropes perspicaciously crafted by Ghosh, this article positions hegemonic masculinity and heteropatriarchal privilege as the exploiter within India's gendered politics. By placing the protagonist Banalata both within the feudal space as well as within the bhadralok discourse, one can trace the transition from tradition to modernity that the story represents, and in turn trace Ghosh's unique understanding of and reaction against India's prevailing social and cultural norms.

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